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Do You Ship Us? - 95. Distraction

When Ryan sees Jasper’s name light up on his phone screen, he almost drops his phone. It'd been another three and a half weeks since he'd seen him and those were the longest weeks of his life. Simon and Luke had both called him to ask about how Jasper was when he visited, and sent him screenshots of their attempts to contact Jasper. Though every text was unanswered and every call rejected from Simon, Luke had gotten a response to his baby announcement. 'Congrats Luke, enjoy parenthood.' He'd added Grace's phone number and told Fi to call if she wanted a mum friend to vent to when it's difficult. Luke had invited Jasper to meet Zak, but Jasper didn't reply to that or the other 'hey how are you?' type messages he'd received after it. Ryan wanted them to keep reaching out regardless, Jasper deserved to be shown that they cared, even if he didn't want to talk to them. Ryan hadn't heard from him at all, and he also hadn't tried to contact him. He was waiting, for this moment exactly, to let Jasper reach out on his own terms when he was ready.

"Jasper, hey, how are you?" Ryan asks quickly as he answers the phone, but there's a long silence on the other end and for a moment Ryan feels his heart sinking, thinking he was just pocket dialed by mistake

“Ry, are you busy?” Jasper asks in a whisper then lets out a sob, followed by a shaky breath.

“No, are you ok?” Ryan tries not to sound worried, though he was getting dressed already, wanting to be able to run to his rescue the moment Jasper said the word.

“Yeah. I think. I mean I know. I know I am fine it’s just, I had too much and I don’t feel real. I feel like I am disappearing. Nothing is… I don’t know what is happening Ry and I don’t like it. I don’t like it I am so scared.” Jasper starts hyperventilating.

Jasper, I’m coming to see you, ok? Just relax and I’ll be there soon, I promise. Ryan assures him as he pulls on his shoes, waving at his mum, pointing at his phone and then at the door. She seemed to know this was sign language for 'Mum, it's Jasper and I'm going to him right now, where are my keys, because she raced over to help him find them without asking any questions.

No, no, no, no, no I’m fine, I’m, I’m fine. Jasper stammers and before Ryan can reply, Jasper hangs up the phone.

Shit.” Ryan curses as he grabs his keys from his mum. "Thanks, I've got to go. I don't know when I'll be back." He kisses her on the cheek quickly and heads straight for the door with his phone to his ear, ringing urgently.

"Good luck, be strong." Jules calls out with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes, hopeful that this was the start of things getting better for everyone, but knowing how complicated depression could be. There were many times there would be a glimpse of sunlight before another storm.

 

Ryan knocks on the door as he unlocks it. Wanting to give Jasper some warning that he was coming in but not waiting another second to check if he was ok, he was already upset with how long it had taken for him to get there, especially given he’d been trying to get back in contact with Jasper to no avail. He was scared of what he might find in this apartment, so the minute the door is open he runs straight in.

“Jas it’s me, where are you?” Ryan calls out, racing down the hallway urgently. “Jasper!” Ryan shouts again, pausing in the lounge room and looking around. Jasper leans out from behind the couch where he was hiding. “Hey I’m here. I’m here its ok.” Ryan rushes to his side. Jasper was lying on the floor hugging his legs and sobbing but the moment Ryan sits down beside him Jasper sits up and leans into him. Ryan rubs Jasper’s back and Jasper looks at Ryan with relief washing over his face as he throws himself into his arms. It was the first time Ryan had held him since the accident and he was so glad to have Jasper in his arms again finally. It felt like the first time he had been actually living, not just going through the motions of the day. He never wanted to let him go again.

What are you doing here?” Jasper asks confused, though not moving away at all, he'd forgotten how good it felt to have Ryan's arms around him.

“You called me and I said I would be straight here.” Ryan tells him calmly.

“I called you? I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry.”

“It’s ok, I’m glad you called me. Are you ok?” Ryan runs his hand through Jasper’s messy, knotted and sweaty hair, not soft and clean, but neglected, like the rest of him looked.

"I'm fine." Jasper shakes his head, sitting back a little. Ryan places his hands on Jasper's shoulders and holds his eye contact.

"Don't lie to me, are you ok?" Ryan asks and watches as Jasper fights against his usual response, making an effort to let the walls down.

"I think I'm broken." Jasper whispers after the longest hesitation, tears spilling from his eyes. He exhales hard like a weight is lifted as Ryan wraps his arms around him, careful but secure.

"You're not broken." Ryan tells him, kissing his forehead.

I just, I feel so weird and time is all wrong, everything is wrong and the house looks weird, I need water but I can’t go into the kitchen, I don't trust it, it’s like it’s operating on a whole different time, I don’t want to get stuck in there, what if I can’t leave?” Jasper says in a panicked tone as he clings to Ryan crying. Out of his depth on this one Ryan just strokes his back soothingly and keeps holding him tight.

“Yeah he’s greened out.” The voice sends a chill down Jasper’s spine, he just about falls backwards out of Ryan's arms and looks into his eyes, shaking his head then looking back around the couch to see Flynn walking into his kitchen. “I’ll get you some water.” Flynn smiles kindly over at Jasper.

“No, not Flynn! Why would you make him deal with this?” Jasper whines, starting to hyperventilate again frantically.

“I had to get the key off Grace and Flynn wanted to check on you so he insisted on coming with me.” Ryan answers, rubbing his back gently. Jasper leans into him for comfort and Ryan was more than happy to give it, bringing Jasper in close again and hugging him comfortingly.

“Oh my god am I disappearing? What is happening?” Jasper asks desperately confused. Ryan pulls away from Jasper and looks into his eyes, lost on how to help him with this.

“How much did you have Jasper?” Flynn asks calmly, getting some water and looking through Jasper’s pantry and fridge to see what food he had. “You seriously have no food in here.” Flynn shakes his head then notices a mug on the bench with remnants of the brownie in it. “Did you make mug brownies? I’ve never thought to do that. Very resourceful.” Flynn asks, unable to contain the infliction in his voice that he was a little impressed by it.

“I have never had to bake it before and I just wanted a little bit.” Jasper answers. Flynn finds the butter in his fridge and inspects it, the smell was so strong it was putrid.

So you don’t remember how much you had. Flynn asks, trying to work out how many spoons worth had been taken out of it.

“I had one and then it didn’t do anything and I had another 1.” Jasper replies, rubbing his forehead confused.

So you had 2, mug brownies?” Flynn asks, his tone was calm but he was internally mortified.

Yeah only 2.”

How much butter did you put in each one?”

Not that much. I wasn’t really measuring it but it was probably like, a tablespoon.” Jasper shrugs. Ryan looks to Flynn for an answer, Flynn’s eyebrows were dramatically raised at Jasper’s statement. Not that much to Jasper was clearly quite a bit as far as Flynn was concerned.

“Ok, so when did you have the first one and the second one?” Flynn asks, walking over to Jasper with water. He hands him the glass and sits on the floor in front of him, his voice remaining calm and his face neutral, not wanting to stress Jasper out by expressing what he actually thought of his dose.

“A few hours ago. It didn’t do anything and then all of a sudden I was listening to music and it just went on for so long and I just feel like the world is weird and I don’t know if I am blacking out or if things are just happening so slowly but also very fast.” Jasper shakes his head again then looks at the glass in his hands as though confused at how it got there. He sips at it then pokes his tongue out and gives a disgusted grunt.

“Got that cotton mouth feeling?” Flynn smirks at him.

“Yeah what the hell?” Jasper screws his nose up.

“Try and drink it anyway, I promise it will help.” Flynn assures him.

I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.” Jasper shakes his head and starts crying again.

“I know but, you are safe and Ryan and I are here to make sure of that. You know it will ease off, you won’t even feel this out of it in another hour, there’s just not much we can do but keep you distracted until then. Maybe order some food or get to sleep.” Flynn sighs, taking his phone out to order food for them.

No, no Flynn please. You don’t have to stay. I don’t need you to distract me, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m really, I’m fine.” Jasper rubs his head feeling like he was not making coherent sense.

“Jasper, we love you and we’re staying. Flynn tells him with a kind smile, reaching his hand out to rub Jasper's shoulder reassuringly.

“No but you guys have been here for so long already. I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. I hate this. I am so sorry. I am just so scared. I don't feel like this when I smoke the joints." Jasper shakes his head confused.

"Edibles hit you a bit harder. You remember the time you stress ate a bunch at my place?" Flynn laughs, hoping Jasper would be able to laugh at the memory too. Flynn had used a little over 2 tablespoons for the whole batch that he and Blake shared over a few days.

"That was fun though, this isn't fun." Jasper sniffles back more tears. "I'm sorry. You guys should go." He says again.

"We're not going anywhere until you are alright. I promise. And it's not a problem, we love you and we want to be here." Flynn seemed to know all the right things to say, Ryan could only imagine he'd had these kinds of things happen before.

"How can you love me? I’m a mess. I ruined everything.” Jasper burst into tears and leans into Ryan again for comfort and reassurance.

You haven’t ruined anything, you’re just on edge because of the weed.” Flynn assures him.

No, but everything with Blake.” Jasper sobs.

“I don’t know why you think that I blame you. You didn’t do anything wrong, Jasper. You have got to stop torturing yourself over this. It had nothing to do with you, there was nothing you could have done differently to change anything. I don’t hold it against you. I don’t know how you got it in your mind that I have any problem with you, but I don’t.” Flynn sighs as he shifts to sit next to Jasper. Jasper continues to cry into Ryan’s chest, not acknowledging what Flynn had said. Ryan looks at Flynn, seeing that he was struggling to hold it together himself. “I know you think you did something wrong. And that we’re better off without you. But we’re not. We all lost Blake, no one wants to lose you too.” Flynn rubs Jasper’s back.

“I miss him so much.” Jasper turns his attention back to Flynn, his bloodshot eyes filled with tears, pure vulnerability on his face. Ryan was so proud of him in this moment. For letting it out, letting Flynn in and sharing a moment of honest emotions with him.

I am sure he misses you too. But you know he would hate to see you doing this to yourself.” Flynn puts his arm around Jasper’s shoulders and hugs him, much like Blake use to always do and when he closes his eyes Jasper lets himself believe for a moment that it was Blake’s arm around him. “You meant a lot to Blake and just because he is gone doesn’t mean you are any less like family to me. I feel closer to him right now than I have in weeks.” Flynn takes a steadying breath, trying to keep himself from crying as he wanted Jasper to feel better, not worse. Let people that love you, love you. Flynn breathes.

“I’m really happy for you and Grace. I am glad you guys are getting married.” Jasper sighs and pulls away from Flynn, standing up and looking around the apartment to orientate himself again. “I’m going to throw up.” He states and stumbles away while Ryan looks around the couch watching to see if Jasper would at least make it to the bathroom. Flynn exhales heavily and Ryan turns his attention to see him with his knees to his chest and his face buried in the crook of his elbow.

“If it’s too much you can go, I can handle him.” Ryan offers, reaching across and placing a hand on Flynn’s shoulder. Flynn nods but doesn’t speak, letting himself be raw and expressing the pain. After a few moments he wipes his hands over his face and brings them together like he is praying and after a calming silence he exhales again.

“Have you dealt with this kind of thing before? I don’t want to leave you with someone completely fucked on drugs.” Flynn sighs.

“I have seen plenty of bad trips, this is nothing. Ryan nods, a history of times Damien had come to him in worse states, having prepared him for this. “Did he say you and Grace are getting married?”

“Yeah, it’s a bit fast but… Life is unpredictable.” Flynn shrugs. “Jasper didn’t take it well when Grace told him. He didn’t understand and thought we were doing it too soon after Blake. How are you handling all of it?" He asks quietly. Other than his mum, this was the first time Ryan had actually been asked that. The truth was, he was somewhere between 'completely fucked up but somehow holding it together' and just really confused. Everything had changed so suddenly that he'd still barely gotten his head around it all. He was grieving Blake, he was grieving Jasper, his whole life was changing directions very unpredictably right now and it was terrifying.

"I'm the one that should be asking you that." Ryan shrugs, he couldn't possibly unload onto Flynn. Flynn sighs and gives a shrug.

"I'm fine." He states with another sigh. "Everyone expects me to be sad, and I am. But the thing is, I grew up watching my baby brother always struggle. There were more than a few times, where I would lie awake at night thinking of what I'd say at his funeral when we were still kids. When that's the life you have, you feel ready at any moment for the worst to happen. We didn't expect him to make it through his teens, so I've had a long time to come to terms with the idea of losing him." Flynn replies with a shrug.

"That's a lot for a kid to take on." Ryan replies, no wonder Flynn was coping so well with this all now.

"It was." Flynn sighs. "I have this one memory of being at home alone with him after school while mum and dad were working, he was on the floor seizing. I didn't know what to do, I mean I'd seen it before but never had to do anything because I was never the only one there that could deal with it. He was my responsibility to keep alive. It was the worst moment of my life, I sat on the floor, with a phone in my hand talking to a paramedic, thinking my brother was going to die and it was all my fault. It was the first time I really understood his condition because no one had ever explained it to me before, but the doctor was telling mum and dad all about epilepsy when were at the hospital that night. We couldn't afford medication for it, and I remember coming home and just hating what he had to go through and that I couldn't help. I researched it, as best a 10 year old could, and found out about medicinal marijuana. It made sense to me, I knew we had pretty sketchy people on our street and I just walked straight up to them one day and told them what was going on, they helped, for nothing. Just gave me what I needed and Blake stopped having seizures as regularly. I never told our parents I was giving an 8 year old drugs obviously. Then mum and dad split up and we moved, I couldn't find anyone nice enough to just give me weed for nothing, so I got into the business myself. Blake has been my main focus and losing him, my biggest fear, for so long. He told me a while back, last time he had a seizure, that he wanted me to promise him I wouldn't carry his death in the same way I carried his illness. So I'm honoring him by letting the weight be lifted from me. I don't have to worry anymore, I don't have to focus on it anymore, it is a relief to know he is not suffering anymore. So I am ok. I have had so long to prepare for and process and mourn the fact I wouldn't have him here forever. It's been a shock of course. I am sad, of course. But I knew it would happen eventually and I was ready." Flynn explains, it was a perspective Ryan hadn't thought of. Being free of the constant stress of losing someone, and being able to just let the pain go and keep moving. Flynn was strong for having gone through that hell of a childhood, it sounded like he'd lived for Blake and was only now actually starting his own life. A life he was absolutely entitled to focus on and enjoy.

“I'm really sorry for everything you went through with Blake. Congratulations on the engagement. That’s great news, I am really happy for you guys.” Ryan smiles.

“Thanks. You and Jasper…” Flynn starts but then pauses as Jasper walks back into the room.

“Holy shit how long was I gone for?” Jasper asks as he walks out brushing his teeth. He takes the toothbrush from his mouth and looks at it confused then disappears back into the bathroom to return it. Ryan and Flynn smile to each other and stand up, finally moving from behind the couch. “Flynn~ have you ever been this high~?” Jasper asks, half dancing his way back in the room, movements all slow and flowy, he looked better already at least.

“Many, many times.” Flynn laughs. “Whoever you got that weed butter from put a lot of weed in it. I wrote a note for future you, saying 'half a teaspoon per mug brownie is enough’. So next time you will only get the good high and not the panicking and vomiting kind."

“Ugh you are the best. I am really sorry about tonight.” Jasper apologizes again.

Not a problem at all. I am going to head home now though.” Flynn walks over to Jasper and gives him another hug. “We will get through this.” He says quietly. Jasper nods, though he didn’t quite believe it himself yet. As Flynn passes Ryan, he pauses. "I reckon he'll pass out, looks like he hasn't been eating much food so it's probably just hit him really hard on an empty stomach but should digest quickly. Put a movie on for him, turn the lights down and let him sleep it off. Call me if you need anything though." He tells him.

"Thanks for coming over to check on him with me." Ryan and Flynn share a quick hug, patting each other on the back. Flynn steps back, gives the peace sign and walks away, leaving Ryan to take care of Jasper, who was, as predicted, looking like he was going to pass out. Ryan helps him get comfortable on the couch and puts the TV on, finding something monotonous to have on in the background.

The next few hours were spent with Jasper numbly lying on the couch watching movies in double speed while Ryan made his way around the apartment cleaning. He didn’t mind, all he wanted was for Jasper to wake up tomorrow to a clean apartment, at least then his environment wouldn’t be as depressing to live in. He orders groceries and leaves Jasper who was now passed out on the couch, for a while to go and pick them up. By the time midnight rolls around, Jasper had a pantry full of food, a freezer full of meals Ryan had cooked for him and a fridge full of more than just weed butter and alcohol. Ryan had debated on whether or not he should take the butter from Jasper but when he opened the container and saw the note Flynn left, marked ‘Badass brownie recipe’ with a full ingredient and method written out on it, he decides to leave it. Besides, Jasper would feel connected to Blake just by reading the note with their word on it and Ryan trusted Flynn, that he'd have given him a dose amount that was safe and would have taken it himself if he was really worried. Jasper clearly had a way of getting his hands on more, taking this wouldn’t stop him just replacing it anyway and at least with this Flynn was making sure he told Jasper how to be safe next time.

“How are you feeling?” Ryan asks, walking over to Jasper as he gets up from the couch, confused about how the blanket had gotten on him.

“It’s wearing off. How long was I asleep for?" Jasper replies with a sigh.

"About 3 hours?" Ryan answers, glancing at his watch.

“Sorry. I'm so sorry to have called you over.” Jasper apolgizes, running his hands over his face.

“It’s fine. I said I would be here for you and I meant it. I am glad you called.” Ryan replies, Jasper could see he meant it too. Jasper lets a sincere little smile tug at the corner of his lips and reach his eyes.

Stay with me tonight?” Jasper asks nervously, running his fingers through his hair then tugging at his clothes to try and make himself more presentable. As if it really made a difference.

Why? Ryan bites his lip to stop himself smiling at the admirable attempt Jasper was making to look like he wasn't the person who'd just spent the night being a complete mess and then passing out. Not that that would stop Ryan from saying yes to stay the night, any more than Jasper tidying his hair and clothes would make him say yes. He wanted to, even if Jasper was still a mess. Even at his worst, Ryan felt nothing but love, he just wanted to know what this meant for Jasper first.

Why do you think?” Jasper asks nervously. Not even sure himself what he actually wanted from Ryan tonight. Comfort? The reassurance that he hadn't just lost his last shred of respect for Jasper? Just to pretend that Ryan still lived her and they were happy?

I thought you wanted to not make us meaningless.” Ryan reminds him, not a single part of him wanted to leave, but he also wanted to make sure staying wouldn’t end up being a choice either of them regretted.

“Ryan.” Jasper seems to find his confidence as he walks over to him, delicately placing his hands on Ryan’s face and looking deep into his eyes with sincerity. There’s nothing meaningless about it. You know what you mean to me.

What, convenience?” Ryan says sarcastically. Jasper frowns at him and steps back insulted.

Seriously? You are the least convenient person I could be in love with, But I still chose you over everyone and everything. You’ve literally never been convenient for me. You think I put up with Damien and his bullshit because it was convenient? Putting the final nail in the coffin for my parents was convenient for me? You doubting me at every turn, and always assuming the worst to me, super convenient? Jasper rolls his eyes.

“Oh so you want me to stay because I am a burden?” Ryan asks jokingly and crosses his arms.

That’s not it, and you know it. Jasper gives a sigh and runs his fingers through his hair as he turns away from Ryan. Ryan shakes his head and bites his lip, deciding that right now was not the time to fight how he felt, Jasper wanted him to stay and Ryan wanted nothing more than to be the person he turned to. Ryan walks over to Jasper and hugs him gently from behind, allowing himself to press a kiss on Jasper’s shoulder, letting him know he was here and it was ok. Jasper tilts his head instinctively, inviting Ryan to kiss his neck.

“So what would me staying mean to you?” Ryan asks in a soft voice.

“I knew I would distract myself with you if you were here and I needed to just have no distractions.” Jasper admits tearfully.

“But you want the distraction tonight.” Ryan asks.

It’s not like that is all you are though. You never stopped meaning everything to me.” Jasper turns in Ryan’s arms, looking into his eyes. “But I’m not selfish, if you don’t think it’s ok then you can tell me and you can go. You won’t upset me if you decide this is too much to ask, I know you are hurting too and I know you want more than…”

Jasper all I want is to get through this with you. I hate seeing you suffer alone like this.” Ryan sighs, leaning his head against Jasper’s. “I pushed everyone away too, so I know I sound like a hypocrite but you need to let people help you.”

“I am so sorry I didn’t get it when you were dealing with depression.” Jasper closes his eyes, letting the tears in his eyes well over and streak down his cheeks.

“I never wanted you to get it, because that would mean you had to go through it too.” Ryan shakes his head, his hands moving from Jasper’s back up to brush away the tears.

“You always said you were tired. It’s not just tired though. I don’t need to sleep. I just have nothing, I feel nothing. I don’t want to die Ryan, I just want to stop existing all together. It’s too hard to live, feeling like this. How did you do it for so long?” Jasper asks, looking desperately into Ryan’s eyes. Ryan tries his hardest to hold in the pain he felt hearing Jasper verbalize the same feelings he'd had through his years of struggling with his mental health. The last thing he ever wanted was to watch Jasper struggle as he had.

“I couldn’t live with it, I tried twice to escape it and there have been a million other thoughts I never acted on. I don’t even know what helped in the end. Maybe it was just a distraction.” Ryan shrugs, a longing look in his eyes as he considers how he'd gotten through in the end, he'd had Jasper by his side and everything just felt a little more worth fighting for. He was distracted from the pain in his mind, loving Jasper had taken over.

“Have you been ok?” Jasper asks.

“I miss you, obviously.” Ryan answers truthfully. This break-up had been good in one way, it'd forced Ryan to face his own issues without that distraction, having to develop actual coping mechanisms, something Jasper wasn't doing for himself yet. This was amazingly the best he'd ever felt about his mental health struggles, and it hurt so much more to see Jasper right at the start of the journey that Ryan had been facing for years.

“You know I want this again, you and me. I just. I can’t even love myself right now.” Jasper almost whispers, holding back the tears once more. “I do want us back, so badly. No matter how it seems. I just need to take care of myself.”

“But you aren’t. Getting high and drunk isn’t taking care of yourself.” Ryan sighs, he knew it'd be a process, but he didn't want to be enabling him too much by ignoring the fact that Jasper wasn't dealing with this in a healthy way.

“I know, I know. I am working on it. I really am trying to cut back and eventually stop.” Ryan couldn’t hide the skeptical look on his face as Jasper spoke. Jasper looks down at his feet ashamed of how he'd become, then back up at Ryan. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to be around me. If I could get away from being around me, I would. I guess in a way that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.” He sighs. Ryan holds him close rubbing his back comfortingly.

“You don’t have to go through this alone anymore, you know that right? I am here for you, whatever you need. Even if it’s just a distraction.” Ryan tells him gently. Jasper smiles and reaches his hand up to caress Ryan’s face.

“I have missed you.” Jasper breathes. “Would it be selfish of me to kiss you?”

“Depends would it be selfish of me to let you, knowing you are in this state?” Ryan sighs, his hand resting on Jasper’s.

“No matter what state I am in, this is what I want, what I want when I am sober and what I am not as good at denying to myself when I am like this.” Jasper shrugs.

“I’m high and emotionally broken and I need you, I’m sure you need a bit of attention too. It’s kinda mutually using each other, right?”

“That’s an un-romantic way of saying we are both still in love with one another.” Ryan smiles. Jasper smiles back, his heart racing as Ryan starts leaning in. The moment Ryan’s lips touch his he feels a wave of emotions he had been denying himself. It was like he’d been woken up from a long bad dream and he was back to reality, the reality where he and Ryan never lost each other.

“Come on, why don’t we just have a shower and relax. It doesn’t have to be more.” Ryan suggests, taking Jasper’s hand and leading him to the bathroom. He could see that Jasper was still a little too high to be consenting to anything, and really just wanted to take care of him. He'd noticed it last time he had visited, that Jasper was neglecting himself, and all he wanted was fix as much as he could while Jasper would let him. He undresses Jasper and joins him a moment later in the shower, where they stand under the warm water with their arms around each other. The kisses were slow and each touch was gentle, there was no urge to escalate things further and when Jasper pulls away to wipe tears from his cheeks that had come with a thought of how unworthy he was of Ryan’s kindness tonight, Ryan takes the opportunity to offer to wash Jasper’s hair for him.

“You don’t have to do that.” Jasper tries to push Ryan’s hands away.

“You know neglecting your own needs is a form of self-harm, right?” Ryan asks. Jasper sighs and turns around, tilting his head back as Ryan massages his scalp with shampoo.

“I’m doing my best.” Jasper lies. Ryan doesn’t reply, he knew he didn’t need to. He washes the shampoo out then starts to gently lathering him with soap. He works on the knots that had built up in his shoulders.

"How are your ribs?" Ryan asks as the water washes away the soap.

"Recovered."

"Still sore at all?" He covers his hands again with more soap. Jasper shakes his head. "Good, turn around." Ryan orders, this time traveling them down Jasper’s back, mindful but not too gentle, his hands press a little harder against Jasper’s spine. He reaches his hips then runs his knuckles back halfway up his spine, the slight pressure forcing Jasper to lean forward resting his arms against the wall of the shower. Warm water washing over him and Ryan's knuckles, fingers and palms working to massage away months of tension and stress from sleeping on the couch, and lying around all day on the floor while he stared at the ceiling.

“Let me know if I hurt you ok?” Ryan asks and on his way back down to Jasper’s hips he pushes again a little harder, finding knots and relieving them. He holds Jasper’s waist and pushes his thumbs into his spine, cracking his lower back and making Jasper gasp. “You ok?”

“Yeah.” Jasper nods and turns around to face Ryan. Ryan runs a finger along Jasper’s jawline, down to his chin and up the other cheek, feeling the stubble that he knew would have to have taken weeks to grow to even this small length.

“Will you let me shave you?” Ryan asks. Jasper nods, letting Ryan turn the shower off and get out. Ryan wraps a towel around his waist then puts a towel on the bathroom vanity, patting it and smiling at Jasper. “Sit down.” He orders. Jasper does as he’s told and Ryan folds the towel over Jasper’s lap, he takes out the shaving cream, razors and aftershave then looks at Jasper and smiles again. He places his hands on Jasper’s knees and kisses him quickly, before taking the shaving cream and applying it to Jasper’s face. Jasper sits very still, avoiding looking at Ryan as he carefully shaves away the ‘too depressed to shave’ stubble. Ryan was in his element, loving every second of being able to care for Jasper the way he wished he could have been this whole time, and for someone who had been so against anyone else looking after him, Jasper was enjoying the love he felt letting Ryan do these things for him now.

With his face tidy, his hair washed and some of the tension in his back relieved, Jasper gets down from the vanity and kisses Ryan hard. He felt as though he needed to thank Ryan and after very little warming up to it he drops down to his knees to do just that. Jasper felt guilty for pushing Ryan away and was trying to make up for it in his attempt to please Ryan. He felt like he owed him for everything and was putting in his best effort but the mood wasn’t there and Ryan ends up stopping him after barely indulging, bringing their lips together for a soft kiss. He wanted to slow Jasper down, but Jasper is hit with a painful feeling of rejection, like he wasn’t good enough for Ryan anymore.

“Were you not enjoying it?” Jasper asks with tears in his eyes. Jasper had been trying to push him away, but the idea of Ryan not wanting to have sex with him felt like a sign that Ryan was falling out of love and no longer felt that strong emotional bond with him.

“It’s not that I wasn’t, just, this isn’t about sex to me.” Ryan replies and holds him tight, kissing his shoulder.

“It can be though, you deserve it.” Jasper answers. Ryan looks into his eyes with sadness, feeling misunderstood in his actions, that the person who knew him best would assume he was doing these things to get laid, that he would be that shallow. “I’m sorry.” Jasper shakes his head as he notices the way Ryan is looking at him.

“It’s ok.” Ryan shrugs, he takes Jasper’s hand again and they head out of the bathroom, into the bedroom. Jasper sighs and falls down onto the bed, climbing under the blankets and burying his face in a pillow embarrassed. Ryan slips in under the blankets too, putting his arm around Jasper and kissing his shoulder again.

“Why are you doing this? If you don’t want me.” Jasper asks confused and disheartened.

“I never said I didn’t want you, just that you don’t owe me sex because of this. I am doing this because I want to look after you. I want you to wake up tomorrow with a clean home, food that’s good for you and see yourself in the mirror and remember that you are loved. I didn’t do it for sex, I did it because I love you and I am here for you, no matter what.” Ryan tells him.

“How do you still love me? It’s been months.” Jasper shakes his head at Ryan, in complete disbelief. “I was such a dick to you last time you saw me.”

“You think I can’t see when someone is being a dick just to push people away, as a pose to being a dick for the sake of it? You were hurting, I didn’t take it personally.” Ryan smiles at him, running his fingers down Jasper’s back. Jasper moves closer, his lips finding Ryan’s in a slow, passionate and loving kiss.

“I am so tired of only feeling pain, I want to feel something else. Not because I owe you, but because I need you. Make me feel loved, please?” Jasper begs when their lips part. Ryan brushes a tear from Jasper's cheek and looks into his eyes, as if searching for permission from deep within his soul. Jasper takes Ryan's hand in his and for a moment they both just stare at their entwined fingers, letting themselves acknowledge in their own thoughts, the tremendous sadness that his empty ring finger caused. Ryan lets himself shed a few tears and Jasper just nods, understanding how much that had meant to Ryan and how much it hurt him. He didn't lose Jasper the same way Jasper lost Blake, but he had to watch Jasper fall apart and slip through his fingers and in this moment Jasper could see that the loss wasn't comparable. It belonged as well, it deserved to be named and felt. It was Jasper's turn to wipe away Ryan's tears. Ryan takes Jasper's other hand and brings Jasper's fingers to his lips. He places a kiss on each knuckle, watching the way Jasper relaxes, his face looks so peaceful as though the mere touch of Ryan's lips to his skin was releasing the pain he had been keeping in. The expression on Jasper's face turns to a frown for a moment when Ryan runs his hand down Jasper's body, rounding over his hip and bringing him closer. For a moment they just lie together holding each other close, foreheads touching and their breaths tickling one another's faces. Jasper was waiting, needing Ryan to make a move now and Ryan could sense it, he raises Jasper's chin and tenderly presses his lips to Jasper's.

There was something new in this feeling, like overwhelming relief and happiness was tangled up with sadness. Not letting them feel one or the other, but forced to feel both all at once. He'd never felt such closeness, such powerful vulnerability from Jasper who was melting into Ryan's embrace. The frown returning with every new touch as though he has to keep permitting himself to let go, to be so present that the rest of the world outside these arms just doesn't exist. Ryan wanted to be the escape from the reality Jasper was living in, and Jasper was finally letting himself feel alive again, his body meeting Ryan's like magnets were pulling them back together. They move together as if they were meant for this, perfectly harmonious. Slow, sensual and tantalizing. Their lips and hands not leaving one another as they let themselves forget for the night, that everything was still a mess.

Of all the times they had been together, it had never felt like this. This was making love in its purest form. It wasn’t about sex or pleasure to either of them, so much as it was about the closeness and comfort they needed and found with their bodies connecting in blissful waves of contentment. There was no urgency or desperation but it was intense, filled with emotion. Hours were lost giving in to each other, enjoying the warmth of one another’s touch and the taste of their lips. Gripping each other like they would cease existing if they let go, or delicately gliding their fingers all over each other's bodies as though they were fragile. Kissing like they were starved for oxygen and needed to take their final breaths from one another's lips, and kissing so softly and slowly that minutes felt like hours. Pinning each other against the mattress, immobolised by the need of the other, and laying against each other just taking in the peaceful warmth, the drumming of their heartbeats and the scent of each other that brought the feeling of safety, of love.

At times there was sadness of course, this was their way of trying to put all of the hurt out of their minds but occasionally when they took a moment to breathe it all felt too much. There was tears, Jasper mostly, and he wouldn’t talk about what it was that set him off but Ryan could guess. He was torn between being wanting to forget, and the guilt of what that meant. That moving on from Blake's death would mean actually accepting it and Ryan knew he wasn't ready to do that. He was trying to forgive himself for letting Ryan bring him happiness and love, but he felt guilty for putting the pain and grief out of his mind. Jasper was on the cusp of it, the reality unavoidable no matter how hard he tried to keep himself from facing it. But tonight wasn't about accepting reality, it was about pretending it'd never happened. Jasper let Ryan hold him when he cried this time at least and as Ryan lay there helpless he felt both honored that he was finally getting the chance to comfort Jasper through this, and broken that he couldn’t fix this for him. He kept himself silent and shed a few tears of his own as he stroked Jasper’s back, wracking his brains for the right thing to say or ask but never finding a single word that would bring any comfort. Neither of them knew quite how to express themselves with words, but locked in each others embrace they were safe to just relax and let their feelings guide them. Happiness, sadness, love and regret, they felt it all. As those moments settled again, they both ignore the salty taste of their tears and find themselves needing to let their bodies reconnect, to distract themselves. Holding each other close and just surrendering to the need for love, after pushing it away and telling himself he didn't deserve it for so long, it was all Jasper craved and Ryan was giving him love beyond what he'd ever felt before.

And so it went on, a cycle of distraction through intimacy, guilt and sadness, the almost numbing silence that came when they would stop for a moment and remember how empty their lives felt, leading to them needing to soothe themselves in each other’s arms again, hands and lips on each other’s bodies until there was nowhere left untouched, untasted or unsavored. They cling to it for as long as they can, but eventually tiredness takes over. Neither wanted to let go of the night, knowing that the morning would be different. Ryan knew Jasper needed this from him now but he doubted it’d be so simple when the sun came up.

They lie together, both only pretending to be asleep so as not to disturb the other, while they were actually staying awake for the same reason, to cherish each precious fleeting moment together. For Jasper he didn’t feel like he had to have an excuse to let Ryan sleep spooning him, he could just enjoy the blissful comfort of Ryan’s arms around his, he didn't have to push him away if they were asleep. For Ryan he knew the moment Jasper had to face himself this morning, reality would stop him from letting Ryan stay and take care of him any more. He barely allows any hopeful feelings tease his mind that this could be what they needed to start finding their way back together.

As the sun begins to rise, Jasper moves slowly, trying to sneak out of Ryan’s arms and out of bed.

“Morning.” Ryan mutters tiredly as Jasper leaves his arms, he'd finally started drifting to sleep but was wide awake as soon as Jasper moved.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.” Jasper apologizes in a whisper pulling the blanket up himself to hide his naked body while he looks to see where his nearest pile of clothes was, apparently all had been thrown in the wash for probably the first time in weeks so he turns in the direction of the dresser, leaving his back exposed to Ryan who smiles and runs a hand down Jasper’s back. He wanted to bring the moment back, to drag Jasper underneath him and kiss him before he could argue. If he just kept Jasper's lips busy with his, Jasper would never have the chance to talk away the feelings they clearly still had for each other. Jasper reaches for Ryan’s hand, stopping him from moving any further. I knew this was a bad idea. Jasper pushes Ryan’s hand away, then throws the blankets off himself angrily and starts searching through the dresser for clothes.

What? What did I do?” Ryan sits up, looking over at Jasper who was getting dressed in frustration across the room.

Last night doesn’t change anything, we’re not back together.” Jasper turns on him, annoyed as he buttons his pants then turns back to find a shirt.

No I know it doesn’t change anything, I know what last night was about. But you also said last night that it wasn’t meaningless. So which one is it, Jasper? What do you want? Ryan rubs his forehead confused as he gets out of bed, not caring at all to find his own clothes. Jasper pulls a shirt on and Ryan places his hand on Jasper's shoulder gently.

“I don’t know what I want but I know it’s not this.” Jasper snaps, grabbing Ryan's wrist and angrily pushing him away. Those words had been tied to a whole different time until now, it was almost exactly what he'd said right before he'd kissed Ryan for the first time, way back in the start of this whirlwind relationship that had gotten so close to finally being perfect but just missed it every time. It wasn't fair how many things had stopped them from just enjoying what they had, so unfair that Ryan couldn't keep it together anymore.

Yeah, what fucking part of it though, you cannot tell me you honestly didn't feel anything last night, do not deny that it was the same to you." Ryan demands desperately, Jasper looks down at his feet and runs his fingers through his clean, soft hair. "You felt it, didn't you? And you didn’t seem to have any problems with the intimacy, so is it just the affection I can’t do?” He asks desperately. Even though he had predicted this, the moment Jasper had asked him to stay last night, the lack of sleep and the months of debating whether to just insist on Jasper giving him a chance to be his support, led to him feeling quite frustrated himself with the fact that even though the night had been so undeniably natural and right, that the connection they had, completely superseded any prior feeling Ryan had thought was 'love' and 'passion', Jasper was still about to act like it hadn’t made a single difference to him.

“I don’t know. Jasper shouts, turning away from Ryan. He takes a moment to compose himself, trying to get his thoughts clear in his head before turning back and letting out a deep breath as he paces away from Ryan, to the edge of the bed.I’m not there, Ryan. I feel like I made that clear and I feel like you want to believe that I am. Last night, it wasn’t meaningless but... This morning you’re acting like…”

“All I’m trying to do is be there for you.” Ryan gives an exasperated sigh, shattered that the night was being followed up with this tension, this argument that had no right to tear them apart, just like every other problem they had faced together had no right. They had worked too hard to be together despite it all and right when Jasper needed him the most and Ryan had nothing he wanted more than to hold him and face this heartbreak with him he was once again having the rug pulled from under his feet.

“I just don’t want to lead you on an I’m so afraid that’s what I’m doing. I am so confused about everything. Jasper sighs and sits back down on the bed, hands over his face. He hated being this way. Ryan shakes his head and moves next to Jasper, placing a hand on his knee and Jasper lets him. He didn't want this any more than Ryan did, he just couldn't see another option.

You’re not leading me on. This is exactly where I want to be. By your side no matter what. The person you call on. The person you can turn to. The person you, use as the distraction from the shit you’re dealing with.” Ryan nudges him and Jasper can’t help but let out a small laugh.

“I love you.” Jasper shakes his head and looks up at the ceiling, trying to blink away tears. It was the first time Ryan had heard those words in so long and he could feel his heart beat just a little faster just before Jasper manages to break it into so many pieces he wasn't sure he would ever be able to put it back together. “You. Deserve. So much. Better than this.” Jasper sobs, all his strength was gone. The night had been so bittersweet that his heart was aching at the thought of pushing Ryan away again but he just wasn’t ready to let Ryan back in, not when he was still so far from being ok. Not now that he was completely sober and feeling an urgent pull to cloud his thoughts with anything he could find and the guilt for having used Ryan as his distraction last night was settling in. “I am so sorry that I am just still not there.” Jasper sobs into his hands.

“Jasper please, don’t shut me out again. You don’t have to do this alone.” Ryan begs though he could see Jasper was already shutting down on him again and it was breaking him to watch. Last night it was 'I love you and I want this again' and now he was contradicting himself again and pushing Ryan away, again. He couldn't keep doing this either. It hurt so much to keep losing Jasper over and over and over. There was only so much of this he could take and being pushed away after everything that he felt like last night had confirmed about how much they loved, deserved and belonged to be together, was too much to bare.

“Ryan I think you should…” Jasper pauses to sniffle back tears, the walls he'd let down last night had found their way back up and he was trying again to pretend he was ok. “You should move on. I know you are hopeful for us, but I don’t want you to waste your time. I need you to be happy. Do it for me, please. Be happy. Find someone that deserves you, someone that treats you the way you should be treated. You deserve so much better than the mess I have become. You deserve to have someone to love you. Completely. That’s not me anymore.”

@Copyright (2018), Claire Rosalind; All Rights Reserved.
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Jasper should be careful about how many times he pushes and pulls ryan back in to his life... it may end badly... even unintentionally

Edited by Shaggy_93
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This chapter explains Flynn a little before we thought he was a stoner dealing to make easy money when actually he was doing for Blake's condition.Did anybody in the band realize that about Blake?

All these  180's Jasper keeps doing can't be good for Ryan either being he has had the same kind of problems in the past.Ryan might need to see a professional to get help to figure out what is the best thing to do for Jasper and how to go about it but also to determine if there a risk that it could affect him in a dangerous way.  

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The calm before the storm. Let's hope Ryan can help Jasper, before he has a real breakdown, he needs professional help.

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I know what depression can do  but please Jasper come to your senses. Ryan is a terrific boyfriend

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Jasper please don't make this mistake, you know you really want and need Ryan, Maybe Ryan should get Flynn to go and talk to Jasper again like he did when Jasper was high maybe if he was to hear what Flynn told him when he was high maybe he could stop pushing people away, Ryan you should break down and explain to Jasper that you only love him and you are going through this alone and two should be going through this together

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Depression is a serious, debilitating disease. Very few people understand what it is like to have to deal with it from either side.  Ryan has personal experience of what Jasper is currently going through and could be an immense help. At least Jasper realizes and seems to acknowledge what he is doing.  He just believes there is no other side. Ryan, Grace and Flynn need to get him professional help.  He isn’t functioning. He is in serious trouble.

My mom had depression, although she always denied it.  I would lay with her in her bed for hours, sometimes just talking about whatever, sometimes talking about how she was feeling.  One of her gauges was what she referred to as her Stick Man.  He would come in her dreams and be in various positions around a pit in the ground.  The worst was when she told me he was hanging over the edge by his fingertips. I spent a LOT more time with her at that point! Daddy as ill and couldn’t help. We had no family or friends near or who would be concerned. A couple of years later she told me she dreamt of him walking around, heading toward a surrounding forest.  Eventually, she told me he had come the night before, standing at the edge of the trees.  He waved to her, turned and walked into the forest.  He was never seen again.  Her attitude changed that day.  Mind you, she was in her 70s, but she was more like her younger self again. There was a lot of relief on both our parts!

Jasper is suffering from survivor’s guilt on top of it all.  Look at how he turned every element of the accident around to how he should have been able to prevent it. Not possible. Have they even realized that yet? Not only does he need psychiatric help, he may need a forensic engineer of some sort to help him sort the whys and wherefores of the accident so he can start to accept there was nothing he could do.

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